CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT
Far Verona, a streamed tabletop RPG produced by J.P. “itmejp” McDaniel’s RollPlay brand has scrapped the rest of its second season after a controversial scene involving one of the characters being sexually assaulted in the narrative without prior warning to the cast members.
The scene in question occurred during the last few moments of the March 21 broadcast where Johnny Collins, an obsolete android character played by Elspeth Eastman, was visiting an NPC named Rocket, played by game master Adam Koebel.
During the scene, Johnny was subjected to a simulated “orgasm” by Rocket when he was only expecting simple repairs. Rocket had talked Johnny into the “new experience,” but it was clear that Eastman and the rest of the cast were uncomfortable during the scene. The scene in full can be seen below.
Since the scene aired, McDaniel and Koebel released a video explaining what went wrong and informed fans that the show was cancelled. In it, Koebel admits that protocols were not in place to allow the players to object to any narrative content that made them uncomfortable.
“We’re no stranger to difficult situations in role-playing,” Koebel said in the video. “Sometimes role-playing gets intense or difficult or someone narrates something that didn’t land the way they anticipated.”
“Usually, when something like that happens, we have the opportunity to discuss it on a break or we take some time between episodes. Usually that’s enough to ensure that the cast moves forward and feels comfortable and safe exploring the stories that we’re telling.”
“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we didn’t put any safety measures in place to prevent that discomfort while it was occurring.”
Koebel is known for being an inclusive game master who looks out for his players and has suggested many options for players to opt out of a scene’s content in the past.
“These situations can be avoided by implementing the right protocols,” said Koebel. “I want to apologize for missing that integral step. Normally it’s something we do at the beginning of a campaign. We talk about themes, we talk about lines and veils, but we didn’t for Far Verona.”
There are several tools at game masters’ disposal that have been developed to give players the ability to agree to controversial subject matter. One method is establishing “lines and veils.” Lines are hard boundaries that players can inform the GM that they will not tolerate crossing. Veils are more lenient boundaries that allow for subject matter to be hinted at or implied.
Another method is the X card, which allows players to point to or show the GM a card with an X on it denoting that they are not comfortable with the current scene in the game.
Not only were tools like these not utilized, the players were not consulted about the subject matter prior to the episode.
Koebel stated that the proper methods of keeping players safe in-game will be implemented on all other RollPlay shows, of which he almost exclusively runs.
“We’re going to be instituting the X card or a similar mechanism to prevent in-the-moment discomfort,” Koebel said. “Rather than just assuming we can deal with it off-screen or on a break.”
As of this publication, there is no word on whether Far Verona will return to finish the story.
In the video, J.P. McDaniel asked fans to not bother the cast members about the situation and said that the cast can speak out about it however they like if they choose to.
Eastman did release a video on Thursday explaining her feelings and opinions on the scene and Koebel’s handling of it. She explained that Koebel had approached her to discuss what story arcs she saw Johnny having. One of those arcs was to have Johnny learn how to say no to more people and his friends more often.
“The way the episode ended was Johnny laying down willingly and then having this completely alien sensation happen,” Eastman said. “He was expecting upgrades.”
“Then Adam ends the episode there, leaving no room for Johnny to refuse or even punch Rocket for violating his space. It felt very premeditated and I was shocked and angry.”
Eastman messaged Adam after the episode to express that “this was not what she envisioned for Johnny.” Koebel apologized for “misreading her intent.”
“I’m not sure how one could misread the intent to get fixed up as ‘let’s give this guy an orgasm,'” Eastman said. “But it happened despite the red flags anyway.”
She added that she has lost faith and trust in Adam as a GM.
“Hell, I might have lost faith in him as a friend,” she said.